FCC Denies California City’s Request for WEA Test Waiver
Friday, September 11, 2020 | Comments

The FCC denied a request from the city of Irvine, California, to allow participating commercial mobile service (CMS) providers to participate in an end-to-end Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) test on Oct. 15.

The commission’s rules prohibit the use of the WEA signal except during actual emergencies, authorized tests and certain public service announcements. The commission’s rules only allow WEA end-to-end tests that reach the public only when the test is conducted using the state/local WEA test category. Messages in that alert category differ from actual alert messages in order to reduce public confusion and minimize any chance that they might be misconstrued as alerts about actual emergencies. Consumers do not receive state/local WEA tests by default. Instead, consumers must affirmatively opt in to receive these service messages.

Irvine requested a waiver to use the public-safety alert category for what it called a “live” end-to-end WEA test. The city requested the test because of its large transient population, noting that its population of approximately 300,000 nearly doubles during the day due to commuters, travelers and tourists. Irvine said the purpose of the test is to identify current capabilities through examination of WEA geographical coverage, including overreach; public reaction and feedback; and the efficacy of internal policies.

The city said that it intended to conduct public outreach about the tests through press releases, social media post, the city website and other means.

The FCC agreed that a test of WEA can be very useful in helping jurisdictions prepare for emergencies but said that was why it now allows the state/local WEA tests. The commission determined that Irvine failed to explain why a live test in the public-safety alert category is necessary and why a state/local WEA test would not work.

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